By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — SALEM — A confidential informant was arrested on drug charges Wednesday after police discovered he had packed up and planned to move out of the area.
Rafael Beamud Jr., 32, of Salem was arrested without incident in the Fisk School parking lot just before 3 p.m. Wednesday. He faces a felony charge of cocaine possession and a misdemeanor charge for transporting a controlled drug.
Beamud was a passenger in a car stopped by police last week with a “significant” amount of drugs, Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said.
“Our undercover detectives felt he may have had some information that would be useful, so they decided to try to work with him,” Patten said. “It very quickly turned out that it wasn’t working and it also turned out he was fleeing the area. We took the appropriate steps to remedy the situation.”
The encounter last week wasn’t the first police had with Beamud.
He’s the prime suspect in a suspicious fire that destroyed his family’s home Feb. 18, 2012, Patten said.
An early-morning fire destroyed the home at 7 Webster St.; Beamud his wife and three children were not home at the time.
The fire was deemed suspicious and the investigation remains open.
“He’s the number one suspect in the arson,” Patten said. “All the evidence we’ve been able to collect points in his direction; there’s just not enough to bring charges forward at this time.”
For now, Beamud remains in jail for lack of $5,000 cash bail on the drug charges.
Using a drug suspect as a confidential informant isn’t unusual, Patten said.
“Any time there’s a drug arrest or investigation, undercover detectives have a strict protocol in place and try to develop some of those people as suitable informants,” he said yesterday. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out as well as you hope.”
Police will work with the individual and try to get good information in exchange for bail or lesser charges, according to Patten.
“We try to work things out in a fair and reasonable manner,” he said. “Depending on the level of cooperation and the quality and quantity of information, the suspect can get a reduced sentence or reduced charge in exchange for information.”
The arrangement has to be advantageous and worthwhile before police will enter into it, Patten said.
“We’re not going to reduce a major drug case,” he said. “You keep trying to get the bigger fish. You want to get the supplier; it’s a common practice in drug investigations.”
The relationship doesn’t erase the charges, but it can be mutually beneficial, he said. In fact, it usually is.
However, this time, Beamud didn’t hold up his end of the arrangement, according to police.
This week, detectives learned Beamud was ready to move south and had moving trucks at his home. He hadn’t provided any assistance to detectives, Patten said, and a warrant for the pending charges was sought.